Sunday, April 18, 2010

Azadi Tower

Azadi Tower (previously known as the Shahyad Aryamehr Memorial Tower) is the symbol of Tehran, Iran, and marks the entrance to the city. Azadi Tower is situated in the middle of Azadi Square. Built in 1971 in commemoration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, this "Gateway into Iran" was named the Shahyad Tower but dubbed Azadi after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. It was the symbol of the country's revival, and intended to remind coming generations of the achievements of modern Iran under the Pahlavi Dynasty. It is 50 meters tall and is completely clad in cut marble, a striking national monument and audio-visual theatre complex. Prior to the opening of Tehran’s new airport, it was the first sight to welcome visitors to Tehran due to its proximity to Mehrabad Airport.  

Azadi Tower is part of the Azadi cultural complex, located in Tehran's Azadi square in an area of some 50,000 square meters. There is a museum and several fountains underneath the Tower. The architect, Hossein Amanat, won a competition to design the monument. Azadi Tower combines Sassanid and Islamic architecture styles. It is alleged that Amanat also integrated a degree of Bahai symbolism in the design; there are exactly nine stripes on each side of the tower and exactly nine windows on the tall sides of the building, nine being an important number in the Bahai faith.  

Built with white marble stone from the Isfahan region, there are eight thousand blocks of stone. The stones were all located and supplied by Ghanbar Rahimi, whose knowledge of the quarries was second to none and who was known as "Soltan’e Sang’e Iran". The shape of each of the blocks was calculated by a computer programmed to include all the instructions for the building work. The actual construction of the tower was carried out and supervised by Iran's finest master stonemason, Ghaffar Davarpanah Varnosfaderani. The main financing was provided by a group of five hundred Iranian industrialists. The inauguration took place on October 16, 1971.  

The entrance of the tower is directly underneath the main vault and leads into the basement. The black walls, the pure, sober lines and the proportions of the whole building create an intentionally austere atmosphere. Heavy doors open onto a kind of crypt where lighting is subdued. The lighting there seems to issue from the showcases placed here and there, each containing a unique object. Gold and enamel pieces, painted pottery, marble, the warm shades of the miniatures and of the varnished paintings glitter like stars among the black marble walls and in the semi-darkness of the concrete mesh which forms the ceiling of this cave of marvels. There are about fifty pieces selected from among the finest and most precious in Iran. They are in excellent condition and each represents a particular period in the country's history.  

The place of honor is occupied by a copy of Cyrus's Cylinder. The translation of this first Declaration of Human Rights is inscribed in golden letters on the wall of one of the galleries leading to the museum's audio-visual department. Square flag-stones, gold sheeting, and terra cotta tablets from Susa covered with Cuneiform characters of astonishingly rigorous geometry are the earliest testimonies of Iran's history. Potteries, ceramics, varnished porcelains like the beautiful seventh-century blue and gold dish from Gorgan, an illuminated Koran, and a few exceptional miniatures display milestones in the country's annals up to the nineteenth century, which is represented by two magnificent painted panels from Farah Pahlavi's collection. A mechanical conveyer allows visitors to view the hall in comfort. Some art galleries and halls have been allocated to temporary fairs and exhibitions.  

In 2006 Azadi Tower appeared to be in a critical state with its foundation being threatened by water seepage and facing gradual destruction. Furthermore as a result of negligence in carrying out basic repairs, bad weather and air pollution, the stone fa├žade and its tile works were also in poor condition. Fragments of the outer parts of the tower had fallen apart owing to aging and lack of repair since its construction. Despite warnings about the urgent need for repairs since 2004, no action has been taken.  

On February 11, 2007, during the celebration of the 28th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution, an Iranian man named Amir Moussavi, 32, fell to his death while free climbing the tower in front of the tens of thousands celebrating. He was only three meters from the top when he was overcome by exhaustion and unable to climb further. 


  1. A very interesting project even if I would have stretched it some half of its height higher, just to enhance verticality and landmarking. In any case a beautiful piece of Architecture.
    What is the position of UNESCO? Is Iran a Member?

    1. Iran is part of UNESCO and already has some properties on UNESCO's World Heritage list. You can see the full list here: The Azadi Tower however is not one of them.